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By Senior School teacher Lawrence C. Connolly

Its name comes from the Greek ephemeros, “lasting only one day.” But in spite of that, Ephemera, the Senior School arts magazine, has been thriving for a quarter century. In that time, it has won dozens of top awards while showcasing nearly 1,000 original works of art, poetry, and fiction – all of it created, selected, edited, and published by the students. Student-driven arts magazines have been part of Academy life for nearly as long as the Senior School itself, beginning in 1967 when Dr. Mary Robb founded The Tentative Essential, a magazine that she described as a showcase for material “selected, edited, and arranged by the students.” From its humble beginnings as a clasp-bound collection of poetry and prose, The Tentative Essential eventually began adding works of graphic art before giving way to Portfolio, which debuted in the mid 1970s and continued until the first issue of Ephemera arrived in 1985.

Larry Connolly, Jakob Goebel ’13, R.Y. Kopf ’12, Andrew Hennion ’12, and Michael Sutton ’12 (not pictured) perform at Ephemera’s 25th Anniversary Celebration during Reunion Weekend.

Advised by Jeffrey Schwartz, Ephemera started its life as a digest-size magazine that honored Dr. Robb’s vision of a student-produced publication. Nevertheless, as had been the case with its predecessors, Ephemera’s typesetting and layout were handled by professional printers, a policy that continued until the early 1990s, when desktop publishing put another facet of magazine production into student hands.

English Department Chair Dr. John Murphy (Ephemera advisor from 2001-2007) to Mrs. Victoria Polinko, who served as one of the founding advisors of Portfolio before moving on to advise Ephemera from 1998 until her retirement in 2006. In her concluding remarks, Mrs. Polinko told the audience, “Not one day goes by when I don’t wish that I could still be teaching here.” Then, gesturing toward a group of students who sat listening attentively to her words, she added, “Just to see that look! See! That look right there!” She paused, her voice full of the love that helped make the magazine the success it has become. “I love that look!”

In the years that followed, new advancements in affordable color printing paved the way for Ephemera’s first full-color cover in 1993 and interior color pages in 1994. Of course, the magazine was also showcasing superior content – poetry and prose that regularly earned top honors from the National Council of Teachers of English, Pennsylvania School Press Association, and American Scholastic Press. By the mid 1990s, the magazine had certainly arrived at a pinnacle of success. Nevertheless, advancements continued.

Reflecting on her years with the magazine, Mrs. Polinko said, “Before the show, I was recalling all the trials and tribulations, the computer crashes that so often happened, the late drafts that never seemed to come in on time. All of that was tiring and frustrating, and I loved every minute of it because when you make something, when you make art and you publish it, it’s forever. That’s what we wanted to do with Ephemera, and that’s obviously what you’re still doing with it: taking that which would have disappeared and making it permanent, so that you can look at it again, remember it exists, and love it all over again.”

In the fall of 1997, while the Academy broke ground on a major redesign of the campus, the Ephemera staff began breaking new ground of its own by holding the first Ephemera Live! Describing the event in an Ephemera editorial, Managing Editor Alison D’Amato ’98 wrote:

We decided that the magazine needed a live forum for some of the work that we had been receiving. “Ephemera Live!” was born, an eclectic gathering of writers, musicians, actors, and artists eager to present their work[…]. The staff felt that it was a huge success, and we sincerely hope that next year’s staff works to keep this event alive and thriving.

“What is being created at the school is just amazing. I think it comes out of love. You just love that story, that song, that painting, that pottery – whatever it is, when you find that thing that you love and make it happen. Love makes things happen.” Today, the love and accomplishments continue under the direction of Ms. Jennifer Salrin, who became advisor to the magazine in 2008 and is currently working with the staff to assemble the 2012 issue of the enduring magazine with the ironic name.

Indeed, the event lives on, continuing every year since, and this year becoming the venue for the magazine’s 25th anniversary celebration held in the Gregg Theater during Reunion Weekend. For the event, the lobby outside Gregg became a gallery of student art, greeting those who braved the rain to attend the evening of performances culminating with a special tribute by

Clearly, Ephemera is not just for a day. It’s forever.


Sewickley Speaking Winter 2012  

Sewickley Speaking is the alumni magazine for Sewickley Academy - a premier Pittsburgh private school enrolling students in pre-k through gr...